Sweden Overview

Sweden , constitutional monarchy that occupies the eastern sector of the Scandinavian peninsula. It is limited to the north and west by Norway, to the northwest by Finland, to the east by the Gulf of Botnia and the Baltic Sea and to the southwest by the straits of Oresund, Kattegat and Skagerrak. It has the islands of Gotland and Öland in the Baltic Sea. It has a surface area of ​​449,964 km2. The capital is Stockholm.

Territory and Resources

It has several topographic regions: the Kjölen mountains; to the east, an extensive massif inclined towards the coastal plain; in the center of the southern zone, a low region with lakes (see Vatern); to the south, the highlands of Smaland. The plains of Escania occupy the south-eastern end of the peninsula. The main rivers are Angerman, Dar, Klar, Ume and Torne. The climate is moderate due to the Gulf Stream; being stricter in the north than in the south. The average temperature of the coldest month is below 0ºC throughout Sweden.

A seventh part of the country is north of the polar circle. The average annual rainfall is 535 mm and increases to the south. Alpine and arctic vegetation is dominant. At higher altitudes there are mosses and lichens, under an area of ​​birch and willow; at lower heights are the forests of conifers, and in the south, those of deciduous trees. Reindeers, bears, lynx, mink, red squirrels and wolves inhabit these woods.

Population and Government

According to Paradisdachat, the population is made up of Scandinavian and Germanic descendants. There are Samis in Lapland and the immigrant population is increasing rapidly. In 1993, the population was 8,745,109 inhabitants, with a density of 19 inhabitants per square kilometer. The most important cities (1992) are Stockholm, with 693,103 inhabitants, Gothenburg, with 437,549 inhabitants and Malmoe, with 237,531 inhabitants. Lutheranism is the religion of 88% of Swedes. There are also other Protestants and small Catholic, Muslim and Jewish groups (see Swedish language; Swedish literature). Sweden is a constitutional monarchy; the current monarch is King Charles XVI Gustavo. The current constitution was approved in 1975. The Social Democratic Party has governed almost continuously since the 1930s.


In 1994, gross domestic product was $ 196.6 billion. Its urban and industrialized economy is based on forests, iron ore deposits and hydroelectric potential. Sweden enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, but it experienced an economic recession during the early 1990s. Wealth and mechanization allow Sweden to be almost self-sufficient in agricultural products; the main products are cattle and their derivatives, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes and rapeseed seeds. It has the largest timber reserve in Western Europe and is one of the largest timber producers in the world. Mineral production stands out in the economy. There are important deposits of iron ore; lead, silver, copper ore, zinc, gold, crude oil, uranium and iron pyrite are also extracted. It is one of the most industrialized countries in Europe. The production of high-quality steel is of particular importance; other industries are dedicated to the production of motor vehicles, machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, wood, paper, cement, glass and crystals and chemicals. The monetary unit is the crown.


During Roman times, two tribes of the Germanic peoples – Swedes and Goths – inhabited the eastern half of the peninsula. In the 9th century, Frankish missionaries introduced Christianity; the Vikings established colonies in other countries and between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries Swedish power was strengthened and subjugated Finland. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the establishment of a feudal system allowed an enriched aristocracy to absorb the declining power of the monarchy. In 1397 Margarida I realized the Union of Kalmar, by which Denmark, Norway and Sweden would remain united under a single crown. In 1520, King Christian II of Denmark and Norway invaded Sweden to assert his rights; the leader of the rebellion against him became king under the name of Gustavo I Vasa, in 1523, putting an end to the union of the Scandinavian states. Sweden became a hereditary monarchy in which the nobles and the clergy were subordinate to the state. In the 1520s, Lutheranism was established as an official religion. During the 16th century, Sweden extended its territory; King Gustavo II Adolfo favored its expansion.

In 1630, as a defender of Protestantism, he participated in the Thirty Years’ War. On his death, his policy was continued by his adviser, Count Axel Oxenstierna, who ruled during the minority of Cristina, who in turn was crowned in 1644. The German territories obtained by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) allowed Sweden to have several wishes for the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire and to become the great power of the Baltic Sea. The expansion policy continued with Carlos X Gustavo. Under the reign of his grandson Charles XII, Pedro I the Great of Russia defeated the Swedish army in 1709 at the battle of Poltava, and Russia became the dominant Baltic power.

When his sister, Ulrika Eleanora, inherited the throne, a new constitution ended the absolute monarchy and gave legislative power to the four-state Riksdag (nobility, clergy, bourgeoisie and peasantry). During the Napoleonic Wars, Charles XIII of Sweden ceded to Russia (1809) most of Finland and the Aaland Islands. Then the Bernadotte dynasty was established when the Swedish king, without children, adopted Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte as heir, to please Napoleon. Denmark returned Norway to Sweden (1814) and received Swedish possessions in Pomerania in return. Sweden ceased to have possessions in Germany. The Vienna Congress (1815) recognized the union of Norway and Sweden. Between 1867 and 1886, almost 500,000 Swedes migrated to America, due to food and labor shortages.

The union with Norway began to show tensions that led to its dissolution in 1905. At the beginning of World War I, Sweden declared its neutrality. The Social Democratic Party has become the main force in Swedish politics and social reforms have been enacted that have made Sweden a prominent country in this field; that party remained in power for most of the present century. The Swedish government proclaimed its neutrality at the beginning of World War II. The hostilities in Europe ended, the wartime coalition cabinet resigned and the Social Democrats regained control of the government. Tage Erlander was appointed prime minister in 1946. In 1948 Sweden received funds from the Marshall Plan, but refused to be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ( NATO)), formed in 1949. When the attempt to form a Scandinavian defensive block failed, Sweden began to reinforce its army.

In 1950 Gustavo VI Adolfo ascended the throne; a government coalition was created between the social democrats and the farmers in 1951, which ended in 1958 by the social democratic proposals on the financing of retirement pensions. A new government was formed, composed only of social democrats and led again by Erlander. When he retired from office in 1969, he was replaced by Olof Palme. In 1973, Gustavo VI Adolfo died and was succeeded by his grandson Carlos XVI Gustavo. In 1975 a new constitution came into force that annulled the king’s effective power. Sweden suffered the consequences of the world economic crisis during 1974 and 1975. In the September 1976 elections, the Social Democrats lost after 44 years in power, in favor of a coalition of centrists, conservatives and liberals. In 1977 an austerity policy was initiated. After several social conflicts, the Social Democrats returned to power in the parliamentary elections in 1982 and Palme resumed the post of Prime Minister. After his assassination in 1986, he was succeeded by Ingvar Carlsson, who continued his predecessor’s policy.

In 1991 Carlsson resigned and the Conservative Party formed a coalition with centrists, liberals and Christian Democrats that began to accelerate the liberalization of the economy. The coalition remained until the September 1994 elections, which allowed Carlsson to return, albeit running a minority social-democratic government. In 1994, in a referendum held to approve entry into the European Union (EU), 52.2% of Swedes voted in favor of membership. Since January 1, 1995, its incorporation into the European Union has been effective. Carlsson resigned in 1996 and his place was taken by also social democrat Goran Persson. In the September 1998 parliamentary elections, the Social Democratic Party lost 30 deputies, but Persson remained at the head of the government maintaining the alliance with the Left Party and the Greens. Together, the progressive coalition has 188 deputies, against 151 from the center-right parties. The reduction in popular support for social democrats can be explained by the policy of reducing investments in social welfare, applied to overcome the depression of the beginning of the decade.

Sweden Overview